6 Fixes for Frizzy, Unruly Hair + Top Product Picks


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If you have curly hair, you are undoubtedly familiar with the frizz summer’s heat and humidity can bring.  However, depending on where you live, the winter months aren’t a picnic either—the typically dry, cold air outside combined with indoor heating saps all hair types of moisture, encouraging flyaways, brittle strands and yes, frizzy, unmanageable hair. 

Whether curly, wavy or stick-straight, unless you plan on resorting to a bun or ponytail all winter long you’ll want these salon-proven, staff-tested tips that will get you and your hair back on good terms. 

Wash Smarter, Not Harder

The less you shampoo during the colder months, the more moisture your hair will “keep”, in a manner of speaking.  Yes, shampooing is a necessary step to rid hair of product buildup and keep the scalp clean, but shampooing too often, even with a product formulated for dry hair, encourages frizziness and damage. 
The solution: shampoo your hair as infrequently as possible.  Experiment with 1-3 times weekly, at most, as this will encourage hair to “hang on’ to moisture (i.e. natural oils), which in turn keeps frizziness and flyaway hair to a minimum.  In between shampoos, experiment with dry shampoos or “conditioner only” rinsing—more on that below! 

What we mean by “conditioner only“ is this: wet your hair, then apply conditioner (avoiding the scalp unless it’s dry) and then rinse.  This is actually the same approach as using a “cleansing conditioner” (which is really just a rebranded conditioner, anyway).

Towel Dry Your Hair GENTLY

The more you manipulate your hair, the more you anger the gods of frizz.  A vigorous towel dry will rough up the cuticle, encourages frizz, snarled strands and gradually damages hair every time you do it.  Instead, adopt the squeeze and blot method, gently pressing/squeezing hair with your towel to soak up excess water.  You’ll be amazed at how this simple change of habit will improve your hair!

Pick Your Styling Products Wisely

A styling product that smooths the hair shaft and seals in moisture is one to look for during the winter months if dry, cold air is sapping all the moisture—in this climate, static electricity makes everyday a bad hair day. 

Styling lotions or silicone serums are the perfect choice.  However, how much you use depends on your hair texture.  Those with fine hair will generally fare better with less product (applied away from the scalp) to avoid weighing hair down, while those with thicker hair will find more product necessary. 

Here are a few of our favorite formulas:

  • John Frieda Secret Weapon Flawless Finishing Creme ($5.99)
  • Living Proof restore targeted repair cream ($28)
  • PANTENE Silky Moisture Whip Moisturizer + Styler Mousse ($6)
  • Bumble + bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil ($38)
  • Dove Nourishing Oil Care Leave-In Smoothing Cream ($5)
  • Yes to Carrots Anti-Frizz Serum ($8)
  • Living Proof Perfect Hair Day 5-in-1 Styling Treatment ($26)

Note: Despite the claim that some products make regarding protecting hair from heat damage, they cannot entirely make good on that claim. These products help minimize the damage, but they're not an invincible shield (for example, when you saute vegetables, you don't coat them in olive oil to protect them from the heat of the stove top!). High heat is always damaging to hair, regardless of what the product says.

Diffuse the Situation (with your Blow Dryer)

While we’re on the topic, if your hair dryer doesn’t have a diffuser attachment, it’s time to spring for one.  Using a diffuser and keeping the dryer in constant motion will prevent you from focusing too long on a single area of hair, evenly distributing heat so your hair dries faster with less potential for frizz.  How’s that for win-win?

Deep Condition

Deep conditioning masks just might be your best friend when your hair is exceptionally damaged and dry, whether during the winter months or not—these ultra-rich conditioners should be used as often as needed.  The more damaged and dry your hair is, the more often you will find it necessary to rely on a deep-conditioning treatment.

In the evening, apply a generous amount of your deep conditioner of choice and leave on overnight (a shower cap will keep it from staining your pillowcases) and either rinse or shampoo in the AM (which you choose depends on how dry your hair is, those with ultra dry, damaged hair should try rinsing).  For those with severely damaged hair, the longer (and more often) you use such a product, the more manageable you will find your hair to be!

Note: There is no way to “deep condition” hair; this is just a marketing term. What makes the difference in this approach is that you leave the conditioner on for longer than the standard 3-5 minutes in the shower.  You can actually try this with any conditioner, but for those with quite damaged, dry hair, look for an ultra-rich formula.  Here are a few of our top recommendations:

  • Yes to Cucumbers Color Protection Conditioner ($7.99)
  • Desert Essence Coconut Conditioner ($8.99 each)
  • Pantene Expert Collection Pro V Advanced + Keratin Repair Conditioner ($8.99)
  • L’Oreal Paris Total Repair 5 Damage-Erasing Balm ($6.99)
  • Organix Hydrating Macadamia Oil Intensive Mask ($7.99)
  • Neutrogena Triple Moisture Daily Deep Conditioner ($5.99)
  • Aveda Damage Remedy Damage Remedy™ Intensive Restructuring Treatment ($31) 

Don’t Skip the Salon Trip

You may be tempted to skip your regular trims during the colder months.  However, a regular trim is one of the best ways to keep your hair looking its best by cutting off dry, damaged/split ends. Ask your stylist if he or she will cut you a break for such trims between regular haircuts. Many will do so, but you usually have to ask.

There you have it: Our tested, real-world solutions for making sure Mother Nature’s low humidity and bitter, biting cold don’t put your hair (and you) in a frosty mood. And if your happen to live in a warm climate that gets humid in winter, these tips can work just as well for you, too!

The Best Skin (and Hair) of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare and Hair Care products. You’ll find products for a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, sun damage, and even dry, damaged hair. See Paula's Choice Hair Care.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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